As we all explore the world of social media and social networking, we cannot forget that we all have a lot of learning to do along the way. Just as different tools resonate with different people, the ways in which the tools are used are all over the board, as well. This is likely no surprise to any of us who participate in social networks regularly. And yet, as users, we often forget how our social networking and social media activities can be perceived by those that do not use them as we do. To assume that the way in which we are using these tools should not be questioned by anyone is naïve at best, and foolish and even detrimental to your career, at worst. I'd offer this piece of advice to remember: Participating in any online social network or public forum is always going to be subject to review and interpretation by others, whether family, friends, current or potential employers. Why? Because it's just that - public. You should not have any notion of privacy if you're participating in public social networking sites. It's wise to always keep this in mind.
As a recent example, a co-worker was looking to hire someone to expand their team, but after checking out a prospective candidate online, became turned-off when they went to the person’s Twitter account and saw over 40 postings in the past 24 hours, most of which were not work-related. Admittedly, even to me - an individual quite comfortable with just about all social media tools available - I thought that was a bit much, especially given that many were during work hours. Personally, I have even un-followed people on Twitter who took up my entire tweetstream and seemingly used Twitter as their public IM tool. To me, quality over quantity showcases your talent when using social networking sites, whereas random and frequent brain dumps are not the kind of “conversation” I care to follow.
Is there such a thing as too much tweeting? Yes, I think there is – if you’re tweeting (or blogging or surfing Facebook or another social networking tool) with flaming finger velocity and it’s on work time and you’re not even remotely discussing work-related topics or somehow showcasing your talent as an employee of the company, then I think you’re approaching the area of risking folks thinking that you’ve got too much time on your hands.
One might argue that if you’re getting your work done, producing high quality work, and not bothering anyone, that it’s no one’s business. I’d disagree. There are many days at work where having someone help me for even an hour would be a huge help. If you’ve got time to send that many tweets, messages, post that many blogs, etc. during work hours, and especially about non-work-related topics, then you’ve got time to help out a fellow co-worker and be a part of the team and showcase your talent to the company in that way.
Like it or not, what you do online when associating yourself with the company reflects not only on your personal brand, but also on the brand of your employer. Here are some tips I’d offer up to folks trying to find the balance between the personal and professional realms of social networking:
- The #1 question you should ask yourself - Would you care if someone else was telling you this?
- Share interesting information, resources, photos, videos, and link to blogs and articles
- Share success stories, ideas or comment on something of interest
- Do not use public social networking sites as your instant messenger tool
- Know your reply ratio – try to have a conversation with people instead of just broadcasting yourself
- It is OK to share some personal interests when online at work, be mindful of how it can be perceived – a good rule of thumb during work hours is 80% business, 20% other interests
- Learn that every tweet/blog post/status update/photo/etc counts – every post can help or hurt your personal brand as well as your company’s
- Learn from others, listen to advice and experiences they share
- Remember that this is a public forum in most cases
- What you say lives forever, even if you delete it, chances are good it's already been indexed or someone has already seen it
- Ask yourself: Would you say this to your manager or a customer?